Tuesday, March 31, 2015

ARTS 308 - Kinetic Sculpture Proposal

Moving Shadow Attached to Performer

Exploring the social (macro) and emotional (micro) implications of identity as represented by our shadows.

A performer manipulates a lightweight armature that is attached to their feet and hands.


I want to use something lightweight that will not be too cumbersome for the performer (balsa wood, fabricated plastic sheets). I also want to design a structural joint system that is flexible but won't collapse under gravity. Finally, I'm interested in creating a structure that fits together rather than relying on hardware to attach the different parts of the armature.


  • Designing a structure that "fits together" without much hardware
  • Finding light yet sturdy material
  • Figuring out the balance of the sculpture as attached to the performer

Monday, March 30, 2015

ARTS 308 - Inspiring Kinetic Sculptures

About Face - Anthony Howe

88" h x 62" w x 60" d

Copper, stainless steel

About Face uses wind power to articulate copper panels that make up a face.

About Face is interesting to me because it brings a human element to Anthony Howe's otherwise non-human kinetic sculptures. The individual panels making up the face remind me of pixels in a digital image, only these pixels are manipulated in 3D space in the real world. Some of the panels are driven by a mechanism, while others are "free-swinging", according to Howe. This piece makes me think of the ever-changing collective identity of the human race. Each panel could represent a human life, with its own directions, articulations, and driving forces. The panels collectively form a composite representation of the human landscape.

Kinetic Ball Sculpture Energy - Hüttinger

The sculpture is powered by a person pedaling the mechanism. It represents how energy is generated, transmitted, stored, and released in a sustainable environment.

This sculpture is an extreme example of human-powered sculpture, a concept I find inspring.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ARTS 308 - Kinetic Sculpture Introduction

Man-Made Kinetic Movement

After viewing James Cody Hovland's kinetic ship sculpture, I realized that wind-driven sailing ships are just big wind-powered buoyant sculptures, and that the same principles behind moving sailing ships are used for wind-powered artistic sculptures.

Hovland's kinetic ship sculpture explores beyond simple wind propulsion and transforms the entire hull of the model ship into a mechanical entity with a life of its own. Curiously, the hull of the ship seems to drive the movement of the sails at times.

Natural Kinetic Movement

Snakes almost seem like a kinetic sculpture themselves - they move with a rhythm not found in most animals. After doing a little research I learned that snakes propel themselves on their scales which are designed to slide the snake forward while catching on the ground as they move side-to-side. So, in terms of Visualization, the snake is made up of a hierarchy of joints that rotate on an axis while translating eachother forward. The movement is re-created in wooden toys that you see at places like Hobby Lobby. The concept of connected joints like a snake's skeleton could be an interesting way to create a kinetic sculpture.

And just for fun:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

ARTS 308 - Body Extension Sculpture Post Mortem

Last Thursday I exhibited my body extension sculpture to the public. Besides my peers in class, a few children from a social program and some video cameramen came to try out our sculptures.

Sculpture Presentation

I was inspired to make this sculpture from an idea I had about having an extendable hood that let you use your phone in dark places like a movie theater (and also from my wife frequently telling me to put my phone down and pay attention). I thought about how technology controls our attention while tempting us with mass connectivity. It's as if portable technology has attached itself permanently to us, and immediate person-to-person interaction is becoming extinct.

One of the biggest design challenges was shape language and communicating the austerity of technology as it fuses with the organic self. Using foam board, I crafted a box which represents the universally rectangular shapes our portable technologies come in. The wires, representing physical electric connection and also "mass connectivity" offered by the World Wide Web and social media, are uniform as they leave the box. As they travel towards the viewer, the shape language of the wires become more organic. They spread, twist, curve, and interweave in a synthetic network of vessels and veins. The cloth around the mask section runs along the naturally organic curve of the viewer's face.

The all-black design accomplished my goal of creating a sculpture entity that was oppressive and cold. The sight of the wire network attaching itself to the viewer's face brings to mind images from cyberpunk visionaries such as H.R. Giger. To me, the sculpture became a symbol of our present relationship with portable technology but also a model for a possible physical relationship with technology in the future. My choice of materials was critical in creating such a symbol.


I would display this piece in a public gallery and have it either performed by someone or permanently attached to the face of something like a mannequin. There was still the option, however, of inserting one's iPhone into the box and viewing, with absolute focus of attention, our own portable technology. I would have liked to have developed ways for viewers to put on the sculpture with an iPhone inserted, assuming viewers wouldn't destroy my sculpture in the process.


From what I could tell, the overall reaction towards my sculpture was curiosity as it stood alone. The curiosity turned to repulsion at the sight of the sculpture's parasitic relationship with the viewer/performer - most agreed that it was "creepy". I feel that this reaction reinforced the purpose of the sculpture and that my design and material choices contributed to the reaction.

The children who visited the class didn't seem to understand the sculpture, although they were curiously less afraid of it. I'll admit, I felt apprehensive showing them such a negative sculpture.

Looking Back

If I could do this sculpture over again, I may have crafted a longer tunnel of wires connecting the box to the viewer's mask. With budget constraints, I could only afford to make the tunnel/tube about 18 inches long. Perhaps I could have developed a way to attach the box to a wall and have the viewer walk up to it and peer through the mask.

These limitations did not ruin the project, however. I thought the need for the performer to hold the box in their hands reinforced the image of portable technology that demands not only to absorb our attention and focus, but also to occupy our hands.

The foam board box is rudimentary and I could have spent more time and care making a more sleek-looking box.

Monday, March 16, 2015

ARTS 308 - Body Extension Sculpture Process

The Box

One end of the sculpture had to represent technology, so I chose rectangular, austere shape language that is evident in most of our popular electronics. I originally wanted to make the main color of the sculpture white to mimic the color of Apple products but I eventually chose black to represent a kind of anti-Apple.

You can see in the photos below that I used black foam core and left an indention to insert my iPhone 4.

Black foam core proved very difficult to hot-glue together into a hollow box after cutting pieces. I ended up having to reinforce the box structure with tape so it would hold together. If I had given myself more time to experiment with this technique I might have fabricated this piece with a 3D printer.

Tube of Wires

I measured the perimeter of the inside of the box against the perimeter of a plastic mask from Hobby Lobby (I ended up not using the mask but I used its perimeter as a template for later). The box perimeter was about 26" and the mask measured 27" around my face, so I cut a black fabric section that was 26" on one end, 27" on the other, and ran 18". Now I had enough fabric to fit inside the perimeter of the box while being able to fit around the mask part.

Using a 50-foot roll of 16/2 electrical wire, I cut pieces and hot-glued them to the black fabric. I split the wires and arranged them into a more organic pattern, like blood vessels, at the mask end. This process was the most time-consuming.

Finishing Touches

I glued the fabric into a tube and then glued it into the inside perimeter of the box as seen above. I got the exact shape language I had envisioned: a uniform, rhythmic composition of wires starting at the box and spreading, splitting, and turning more organic near where one's face would go. The hot glue left a lot of little plastic strings which had to be removed.

I folded the other end of the fabric into itself over a 27" strip of thick plastic and attached an elastic string to form a wearable mask.